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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 35 (1993) 2

New research

The association between problems of children and the relationship between their parents.

Ph.D.A. Treffers, I.E. Lindhout, A.A. Tusenius

This article reviews research findings concerning the relation between features of the marital relationship and the presence of psychiatric problems in children and adolescents. The presence of problems in children appears to be related to conflict between the parents. In explaining this association some researchers focus on the mediating role played by child-rearing practices. Other investigators attribute the problems directly to children's reactions to parental conflicts. Several studies have identified factors exerting a protective influence as regards the effects of matrial conflict on children. The authors point out that research to date has focussed predominantly on conflict between parents: little attention has been given to other aspects of the marital relationship. In clinical research factors like family composition and family career have hardly been taken into account. The research has generally made use of global behavioural questionnaires: limited insight has been gained into how features of the marital relationship are related to problems experienced by children and adolescents from different diagnostic groups. Results of research are usually interpreted in a causal direction; the authors prefer to conceptualize the relation between marital dysharmony and problems of children as a reciprocal process.